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A car wash loophole in an MGF – evo Archive

How the drop-tops Grand Challenge got some of the evo team in a lather

Over the years I don’t remember many arguments aboard the good ship evo, but I do recall some stormy skies over Land’s End back in the spring of 2009.

It was the final round of the second evo Grand Challenge (issue 130), which had seen four teams each buy a car for £1000 or less, then subject them to various challenges. The rules on this occasion had stipulated that a convertible needed to be purchased and this led us to an MX-5 (predictable by Tomalin and Green), a Saab Turbo (left-field from Barker and Metcalfe), a BMW 325i (which sadly suffered an embrace from some Armco mid-competition) and the stand-out choice, an MGF, which was the steed of Ian Eveleigh and yours truly. Registration R509 CUM. 

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Unfortunately the cards were stacked against the British Racing Green beauty in the first couple of rounds. Things like road worthiness and straight-line performance weren’t the mid-engined roadster’s forte. The track might have played to its strengths but snow scuppered our chances against the great white, front-wheel-drive Saab, otherwise known as Moby Dick. 

All of which saw us heading into the final round trailing our rivals. The position looked hopeless. But then I inspected the rules, which had been written by Peter Tomalin (one of our competitors, let’s not forget…). They read as follows: 

Round 6: Road Drive.

Route: Wollaston to Land’s End.

Scoring: Arrive by 5pm to score 50 points. One penalty point for every minute late. One extra point for every mile above 300. Ten bonus points for every seaside town. Extra 20 bonus points for going through a car wash. 

You’ve no doubt immediately seen the wiggle room, the loophole, the area ripe for interpretation. It’s almost as though it was left there like a little Easter egg, waiting for someone to crack it. The others turned left out of the office car park, heading straight for the West Country. Ev and I, pipes clamped resolutely between our teeth, swung right and made a beeline for the nearest car wash. And then another. And another. Eleven in total.  

Given the parlous state of the MGF’s rear window (which had cracked when the seller was demonstrating it to us) it was a plan fraught with peril. However, the rough shag remained dry and, with seconds to spare, we rolled to a stop at Land’s End just before 5pm. 

It’s silly, because it was hardly the British Grand Prix and we hadn’t done anything that would make Tom Walkinshaw lose any sleep, but I remember being quite nervous when I laid our claim to a final-round score of 400 points. Our team, Demon Tweed, had racked up 138 more than Need for Swede (Saab) and 145 more than Ginger Tom Racing (MX‑5). This left the provisional final standings reading MGF 800, Saab 719 and MX-5 672. You don’t need me to do the maths.

Peter Tomalin is one of the nicest, most mild-mannered men you could ever wish to meet, but there was a moment when he looked like I’d kicked his dog and keyed his car. Harry Metcalfe was so livid that I thought he might actually fire me at one point. 

Thankfully evo’s placid photographer-cum-chimney, Chris Rutter, had been appointed adjudicator and he deemed that there was indeed enough ambiguity in the rules to award us the win. Beers were drunk, tempers tempered and we were all friends again by the end of the evening. Although I’m pretty sure everyone hoped that the head gasket on our MGF would fail on the way home.

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